Meeting your Ukrainian host child for the very first time can be a nerve-racking experience for both the host family and the host child. Host families will want to keep their expectations of this initial meeting low. Families hosting from Ukraine are meeting a child after they have been on airplanes and in airports for 20+ hours. This is stressful for adults, let alone for children flying for the first time. The children will be tired and may be upset and irritable. They may also be apprehensive about traveling home with their host family. This is to be expected. While hosting is a wonderful cultural experience for children, it can also be a scary one at first. Every child is going to experience this stress differently. Some may be elated and others distraught.
Before you arrive at the airport to meet your host child, there are several ways you will want to prepare yourselves and your home for the hosted child’s arrival. In addition to preparing for the hosting experience in general, you may also want to prepare in advance what you will bring to the airport for your first meeting. Some items to consider bringing are as follows:
Water and a variety of snacks It is worth noting that in Ukraine most drinks given to children are room temperature or warm. Many children may have never had a cold drink and many Ukrainians believe that cold drinks will give children sore throats. Water or juice initially offered to the host child should be at room temperature. You may want to also include a sweet treat that they may be familiar with, like chocolate.
Comfort item This could be a pillow, blanket or stuffed animal. This item may help the child transition from their Ukrainian escort to their host family. You may even attach the child’s photo to the comfort item or write their name on it to show them that it is theirs.
Child-proofed camera or smart phone In every orphanage and children’s home we visit, phones and cameras are a huge hit with the kids. This is no exception for the hosted children. Kids love to record video and take pictures of themselves and others. You may want to child-proof your phone to the point where you would feel comfortable with the host child having the phone or camera. You may also want to download children’s games and/or Ukrainian cartoons to put the child a bit more at ease at the airport or in the car on the way home.
Photo book or photo album on your phone or camera You may want to have photos of your home, your pets, your fa
mily and the bedroom where the child will stay at the airport with you. You may show the child these photos while at the airport or in the car on the way to your home. If your host child is particularly concerned about this new experience, these photos may be used to help to explain to them what they can expect when they leave the airport.
English to Ukrainian language book While you may want to learn a few key phrases in Ukrainian prior to meeting your host child, you will also want to have a book with you at the airport. It will likely be helpful if the book translated phonetically. You are also bound to mispronounce Ukrainian words, which often results in a chuckle from your Ukrainian host child. Laughter and a sense of humor is a great way to connect in the beginning.
Booster car seat You will want to check the requirements of your state. The requirements may depend on the child’s height and weight or be based on age. Even if your host child is above the age limit, they may be smaller than the typical child and extra safety precautions may need to be taken. If a booster car seat is required or desired, make sure it is securely installed prior to leaving for the airport.
Arriving at the airport with plenty of time before the host child arrives and bringing the above-mentioned items will help calm your nerves. Even if you do not use or need any of the above items, being as prepared as possible will reduce your own stress. A calm and prepared caregiver is the best “thing” you can bring with you when meeting your host child for the first time.
For more information on Ukraine hosting, please contact Lydia.